Clashes in Pakistan, police try to arrest ex-president
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Clashes between Pakistani police and supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan continued outside the former president’s residence in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday, a day after police tried to arrest him for failing to appear at a a court to answer charges of corruption.
There were also skirmishes between Khan’s supporters and police in cities including Karachi, Islamabad, the fortress city of Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Queta and other places in Pakistan.
Police outside Khan’s house have used tear gas, while supporters of the 70-year-old opposition leader hurled stones and bricks at officers.
The luxurious area of Zaman Park where Khan lives remained under siege and the government was sending additional police to resolve the situation after hundreds of Khan’s supporters showed unexpected perseverance.
Khan left his home Wednesday morning to meet his supporters, who faced tear gas and police batons all night to avoid arrest. He said that he was willing to travel to Islamabad on March 18 following the arrest warrant for him, but the police did not accept the offer.
The clashes around the house continued. Khan later posed for the cameras sitting at a large table and displaying used tear gas canisters that he said had been collected around his home.
“What crime have I committed for my home to be attacked like this?” he tweeted.
Fawad Chaudhry, a leading member of Khan’s party, said on Wednesday that hundreds of his supporters had been injured.
At the Islamabad High Court, Khan’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, and his team called for the arrest warrant to be suspended. The court was scheduled to rule throughout the day.
The Punjab provincial government said on Wednesday that more than 100 officers had been injured in the clashes and denied Khan’s accusations that authorities were using live ammunition.
Khan, ousted in April by a vote of no confidence in parliament, was due to appear before a judge in Islamabad on Friday to respond to allegations that he illegally sold official gifts received during his tenure and concealed his assets.
The former president has avoided appearing in court since November, when he was wounded in a shooting attack at a protest march in the eastern province of Punjab, and claimed that his health did not allow him to travel to Islamabad.
Last week he appeared before three courts in Islamabad but failed to go to a fourth, where he was to be indicted in the corruption case.
Khan says the cases against him, which include terrorism charges, are an attempt by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit the former cricket star turned Islamist politician.
From his home, Khan urged his supporters on Tuesday to keep fighting even if he was stopped. “They think this country will fall asleep if Imran Khan is jailed,” he wrote on Twitter. “You have to prove them wrong.”
On Wednesday, he tweeted that there was a conspiracy “to kidnap and murder me.”
Ahmed reported from Islamabad.